Ghost Recon Review: Please Contribute!

in Mac Software edited January 2014
A little about me (or who the Hell is this guy and why does he think he can review FPS games anyway?)

I have played all the FPS games on the Mac, and a few on PCs. This list includes Doom, Doom II, Marathon, Marathon 2, Marathon 3, Halo, Duke Nuke Em, Wolf 3D, RtCW, MOH:AA, Red Faction, Quake, Quake II, Quake III, Urban Terror, Counter-Strike, Unreal, Unreal Tourney, Rainbow Six, Soldier of Fourtune II, Seals, Hexxen, Jedi Knight, etc. (You would think that after all those games I would be a good player by now!?) :0)

I must preface this review by saying that I haven't played much of the Tom Clancy games. I have never played a squad-based game either. I have seen Brute Force reviews and screenies, but thats all I know. I'm green! Humble beginnings indeed!

What do you get when you blend the bloody realistic modern combat of Urban Terror, the awe-inspiring outdoor terrains of Unreal, and the anal-retentive geek factor of a flight simulator?

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.

OK, sure, I like vanilla Q3, and UT too (and I will sell my soul to play Doom 3), but I prefer the modern, realistic (non-Sci-Fi) games. I like team-oriented mission-based games more than free-for-all Death Matches. I have to say that I am getting a little tired of some of the familier characteristics of the "twitch" mutiplayer games. Hopping-all over-the-place-while-shooting like a madman is not only unrealistic, it's downright goofy to watch. (and I'm not good at it!) Don't get me wrong, I love a good bloody mutiplayer frag session, especially in Urban Terror, SoF II, and the other "realism" FPSs. But it gets kinda old. Now that I am 30, I am starting to take more interest in strategy, the psychology of combat, stealth, communications, objectives, etc. I still love to get "messy" and have fun, but the idea of a "thinking man's FPS" appeals to me, too. Too many young kids (whipper-snappers) like to cheat, TK, use racial slurs, reject team leadership, and scream "BS! You killed me only because you used the ^&%# shotty, noob!" every time they get killed online. And for god's sake man, NEVER sit still for 30 seconds or you will forever wear the scarlet letter of "Camper". Even in mission-oriented games like SoF II's "Demolition" mode, guarding the target or the explosives is a bad idea if you want acceptance with 13 year-old fragsters and their anti-camper contingent. I better not complain, after all, it's those 13 year olds who probably own the damn severs I play on! LOL. OK ,enough ranting. Where was I?

Enter the Ghosts.

I tested "Gh R" on a TiBook 667 with 768 MB RAM and a ATI RADEON 7500 (AGP 4x) with 32 MB DDR VRAM. I used a brand-new Lacie 22" Electron Blue flat CRT graphics monitor (w/ hood!), Stanton DJ/sstudio headphones (and HK Soundsticks/iSub too), Apple Pro USB Keyboard (black keys), and a Logitech Dual-Optical mouse (5 buttons). I used a 3Com cable modem via RR for mutiplayer. I used Mac OS X 10.2.1 (Jag). Needless to say my system is pretty humble. I have access to a LAN of QuickSilver dual G4s, but for my initial tests I wanted to start with a modest rig.

Unlock 'n Load: No Serial Number?

Installing the game was easy. No serial number required? Weird. The manual is a little scary. Pretty thick and packed with stuff you MUST learn to play (especially the single player game). After I installed it, I remapped a couple keys, adjusted the vid settings and started a single player game. I have to say that the whole installation was pretty fast. Gh R keeps all of its resources in a single, local folder. I'm not sure how this works in the multi-user world of OS X. I will experiment. Look in /home/Library/App Support/ and you will not see a single Gh R pref file like most games leave. Clean and tidy or bad proggy/port design? I haven't torn into the guts yet, so the jury is still out on the geek tech side of this game. any thoughts? I wish it were possible to toggle from Gh R to the Finder or other apps in OS X like you can with SoF, RtCW, etc. I cant seem to figure out how. The usual Command + Tab or Command + Tab do not work. Bummer. at least the game loads very fast. maps load pretty quick also.

First- to answer the question that we all dread: Yes, you have to put the freakin' CD in into your computer in order to play BOTH single and multi-player missions. Time to fire up that burner maybe? A backup copy is a GOOD idea. Once I popped in the CD and fired it up, I was blown away. Read on...

I must say that the game is amazing from a graphics perspective. The maps are huge and appear to go on forever. Its very hard to see where the 3D world ends and the 2D boundeirs begins. Very polished, detailed worlds indeed. The sounds are wonderful and very detailed as well. Crickets chirp, the wind blows (and distorts your aural senses). I think that the music in MOH:AA and RtCW was better though. The vegetation is the BEST I have ever seen. Period. Trees are thick and bushy, and they sway and lean in the wind. It's very cool. I was amazed at how awesome the weather conditions were. I saw pouring rain (and reflecting puddles), crunchy snow, sticky mud, whispy dirt, and flowing streams. A whole world of dynamic environments to explore. The outdoor maps reminded me of Halo and Unreal. Sprawling fields, rocky deep canyons, thundering waterfalls, and dense forests. The lighting flares from the sun were well done. Shadows are very rich and dark. I didn't think I would see shadows this good until Doom 3 (I can't wait!) The player models are very nice, too. Good skeletal movements, nice scripted animations. Blinking eyes, etc. Players can choose from three positions: standing, crouching, and laying prone. Crouched is a kind of like MOH:AA in that you can stay "locked" in a crouched position and walk without holding the crouch key down. Prone is way cooler than I thought. Its really exciting when enemy fire is heard, and everyone drops to the ground just like a real combat situation! And it helps keep players alive longer when they normally wouldn't have any other source of cover. The camo skins are so good that you can walk behind a team member into the woods, turn around, look back at him, and totally lose sight of him in an instant, even if he is a mere 10 feet away. I feel like Barney Fife, lost in the forest, camping outside Mayberry! "Andy? Where are ya, Andy"? Yes, I TK'd a lot my first night. Oops. Sorry PY! :0)


I have found the AI to be pretty good thus far. The AI bots will duck, crouch and even lay down prone! They don't run all over the place like Unreal, but then again this ain't Unreal! Its super-real! You can play against bots as a sigle player or with human teams. You can even blend in bots on your team with other humans to help even the skill levels, and balance out the duties.

Re: Weapons

Unlike Urban Terror and SoF II type games, you don't get to carry an entire arsenal into combat. You get a primary and a secondary weapon. No knives. You do however, have a nice selection of guns and ammo combinations to choose from, including pistols, assault weapons, sniper rifles and explosives.. You can even trade a secondary gun for more primary ammo. It makes the game easier to play, since you don't have to worry about toggling through five different weapons. Reloading is pretty realistic, but without the cool loading "click-click" sounds I love so much. Switching guns is also very realistic. Both take a few seconds to do. If you thought trying to reload during combat in Counter Strike was hard, think again. You will literally die trying to reload in Gh R if you are not smart about your ammo rations and how you use them. When you get hit with a round, assuming that you live through it, you will notice that the impact really knocks you back, kind of like MOH:AA. It really feels like you are taking fire in the chest. Your aim is lost, you jerk around, and you moan in agonizing pain. Medics? Not that I can find. Suck it up soldier. The optics and cross-hairs are very unique in this game. The HUD has a lot of info tucked into small simple reticles. To get a steady bead on an enemy, you must sit still for a second to adjust. It takes a second or two in order to hit a target accurately. I think that overall, the aiming is more accurate than any other FPS I have played. Guns feel responsive and realistic. Welcome to the Military, ladies.

Single Player: Can You Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

I won't talk much about Single Player, because I haven't played it too much so far. Ghost Recon is a squad-based FPS, which means you can jump into a mission alone and control a team of soldiers, all at the same time (basically). It is slower-paced than Q3 or most FPSs. You can't jump, climb, or swim. You cant survive falls. In single player games, as a leader, you can move yourself and your team members (who are well programmed AI "bots" BTW) like combat chess pieces. This is very cool. Coming from the "Twitch" game world, I can tell that it will take me a while to learn how to play Gh R! The idea of toggling between squads and individual players is very compelling. It gets VERY HARD to do when you are under fire from multiple directions! You have to assess the damage, deploy the right soldier with the right weapon and do it all in a timely manner. This involves using maps, charts, and soldier "cards". It's kinda like rubbing your head and patting your tummy at the same time. Or is it patting your head and rubbing your tummy? I dunno. But I digress...


OK, here's where it gets good. Multi-Player is similar to single player with a few tweaks (i.e.; you can activate "Arcade Mode" which makes the game a bit faster, etc...). It uses the same executable app, unlike SoF, RtCW, etc. You set up and join teams (squads) of players. You can play the typical "death Match" games, or more misssion-specific game types. This is similar to RtCW or SoF II, but way more realistic and detailed. You can even play co-op games against AI enemy bots. Co-op is a much-needed game mode that I have missed. Playing Halo this summer reminded me of how cool it can be with good friends and a lot of beer. Shoot with some skill boys, as a default you won't find packs of ammo all over the map, and you cant steal ammo from the dead doods either. If you don't bring it, you ain't getting it later on. I found myself up "poopy-creek" without a paddle a few times when I realized 1/2 into a mission that I had used all my ammo. Going from a happy healthy soldier to a flat liner is very easy. One shot can kill you. No medical packs out here, men. Stay low, aim to kill, and keep your eyes open.Wide open. Speaking of eyes, the Night Vision goggles are nice. I love night missions. Some guys hate them. The NV is realistic, but I like the SoF II better. Just my opinion. There arent any Thermal goggles, sorry. There are a lot of on-screen controls and stats to watch, including options such as being able to track friendly and hostile players. I personally don't like "radars". It's like cheating in my opinion. Don't like it? Turn it off! I did. Creating pre-configed team chat text messages is easy, and it can be done without hacking text files right in the GUI. Binding the chat keys are easy too. Unfortunetly there are no pre-recorded user-controlled voice radio messages-they are all automated by the game (enemy eliminated", "Man down!", etc) Unlike RtCW and SOF II, Gh R doesn't use the "floating bubble" HUD icon over friendly players heads. No colored armbands like Urban Teror. Instead you must use your cross hair (reticle) to tell you if that angry man with the machine gun running at you is a hostile or not. I like this added touch of realism myself. I also like FF too. Go figure. Gh R doesn't support its own in-game server browser. Instead, Mac users must use Game Ranger, or connect to hosts via IP. This is a problem I think. Right now the combo of Game Ranger and Ghost Recon are dangerous. I played for 5 hours online with 5 guys and we discovered that there are some MAJOR bugs in hosting, connecting, and map rotation. Keep Game Ranger open and close at hand, as you will visit it often to regroup and restart. Sigh. I am not happy with the GUI and the HUD, but maybe it will just take time to get used to it. It feels clunky. Kinda like a Sony PS port. The setup screens are complicated and very "busy". Gh R doesnt have the polished GUI that RtCW has. Although I enjoy team-based "elimination style" Death Matches, I really like the team missions. I love to be able to set charges, complete tasks and guard certain "hot spots". I think objective-based missions really add a level of skill and playability to the FPS genre.

My advice:

Go buy the game. It is great. If you want fun, fast-paced action with strategy and team-oriented play-this is your game. Well worth the money. If you want small Urban Terror style maps where you can spot the enemy in 20 seconds, then you may not like the expansive realistic terrains of Ghost Recon. The game may appear to be a bit too technical at first, but I think most players will grow to love it over time. Ghost Recon runs better than RtCW or MOH:AA for me. No Frames Per Sec stats, sorry. The graphics settings are very simple. It's not a hot-rod game in terms of fps, due to the fact that the action seems slower than, say RtCW. I am puzzeled a bit by how well it runs compared to other FPS games, considering that most games have smaller maps, etc. The gameplay is overall similer in pace to MOH:AA, but more robust and dramatic. I promise that Ghost Recon will be a hit, and that it will help shape future games of this genre. Move out soldier!

[ 11-08-2002: Message edited by: dstranathan ]</p>
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